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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

Harwood assuming that I did use him


"I'd

really like to know, Miss Garrison. If I knew why you laughed at me--"

"Oh, I didn't laugh at you! At least--it wasn't just you alone I was laughing at!"

"Not at me?"

His look of indifference vanished wholly; he seemed sincerely interested as he waited for her reply, delayed a moment by the passing of a group of youngsters from the ballroom to the fresher air of the hall.

"I know perfectly well this isn't a good place to be serious in; but I laughed--Do you really want to know?"

"Yes, please. Don't try to spare my feelings; they're pretty badly shot up anyhow."

"It must have been because it struck me as funny that a man like you--with all your influence and power--your capacity for doing big things--should go to so much trouble merely to show another man your contempt for him. Just a moment"--she deliberated an instant, lifting her head a trifle,--"it was funny, just as it would be funny if the United States went to war to crush a petty, ignorant pauper power; or it would be like using the biggest pile driver to smash a mosquito. It was ridiculous just because it seemed so unnecessarily elaborate--such a waste of steam."

She had spoken earnestly and quickly, but he laughed to assure her that he was not offended.

justify;">"So that was it, was it?"

"I think so; something like that. And you laughed too that day!"

"Yes; why did I laugh?" he demanded.

"Because you knew it was grotesque, and not to be taken at all seriously as people did take it. And then, maybe--maybe I thought it funny that you should have employed Mr. Harwood to pull the lever that sent the big hammer smashing down on the insect."

"So that was it! Well, maybe it wasn't so unnecessary after all; to be frank, I didn't think so. In my conceit I thought it a good stroke. That's a secret; nobody else knows that! Why shouldn't I have used Mr. Harwood--assuming that I did use him?"

"Can you stand any more? Shan't we talk of something else?"

Their colloquy had been longer than Sylvia found comfortable: every one knew Bassett; every one did not know her. She was a comparative stranger in the city, and it was not wholly kind in him to make her conspicuous; yet he seemed oblivious to his surroundings.

"You cast an excellent actor for an unworthy part, that's all."

"I was debasing him? Is that what you think?" he persisted.

"Yes," she answered steadily, meeting his eyes.

"You like him; you believe in him?"

"He has ability," she answered guardedly.

"Then I've done nothing to thwart him in the use of it. He's the best advertised young man in the state in either political party. He's in a place now where he can make good."

His smile was grave; it was impossible to answer him in the key of social small talk.

"The 'Advertiser' seems to think that he's in the legislature to do what you tell him to."


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